Naturopathy is the practice of the use of natural substances to provide a healthier balance of internal chemistry.
A naturopath is a therapist who practices naturopathy. Naturopathic physicians (N.D.s) are primary healthcare practitioners. Naturopathic physicians are the highest trained practitioners in the broadest scope of naturopathic medical modalities. In addition to the basic medical sciences and conventional diagnostics, naturopathic education includes therapeutic nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, natural childbirth, classical Chinese medicine, hydrotherapy, naturopathic manipulative therapy, pharmacology and minor surgery. Naturopathic practice excludes the use of most synthetic drugs and major surgery.
Naturopathic medicine is a natural and holistic approach to health and healing that recognizes the integrity of the whole person. Many treatment methods are used, including, nutrition, herbs, manipulation of the body, exercise, stress reduction, and acupuncture.
The practice of naturopathic medicine emerges from six underlying principles of healing. These principles are based on the objective observation of the nature of health and disease, and are continually reexamined in light of scientific analysis. It is these principles that distinguish the profession from other medical approaches: (1) The body has the inherent ability to maintain and restore health. (2) The physician aims to identify and treat the cause rather than the symptoms. (3) Methods designed to suppress the symptoms and not the cause are considered harmful and should be avoided or minimized. (4) The physician treats the whole person - taking into account the physical, spiritual, mental, and social aspects of the individual. (5) The physician plays a role in educating and encouraging the patient to take responsibility for his health. (6) The physician assesses risk factors and hereditary susceptibility to disease to make appropriate interventions to avoid further harm or risk to the patient.
The term natural medicine is not synonymous with alternative medicine. While most natural therapies are alternative, many alternative treatments are not natural (e.g., chelation therapy).
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There are five naturopathic colleges in North America, one of which is located in Ontario, Canada. The U.S. schools are located in Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Connecticut.
A licensed naturopathic physician (N.D.) attends a four-year graduate level naturopathic medical school, which includes about 4,500 hours of academic and clinical training.
In addition to a standard medical curriculum, an N.D. must study holistic and nontoxic therapies with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. The N.D. is required to complete four years of training in clinical nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology and counseling. A naturopathic physician takes rigorous professional board exams so that he or she may be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care general practice physician.
It is important to distinguish certified naturopathic physicians from non-certified who have completed just a short-term course-work mostly by correspondence.
Naturopathic physicians are well trained in all modern methods of diagnostic testing and imaging, including X-ray, ultrasound, and other imaging techniques.
The majority of Naturopathic Physicians are in private practice. Some N.D.s choose to emphasize particular treatment modalities or may concentrate on particular medical fields.